Sydney Alcala: Apps I Couldn’t Write Without

My name is Sydney and I’m an AppStorm writer, a freelance web designer, a beagle mom and a software enthusiast. I’m flexible when it comes to operating systems. My current setup is a Windows 8 desktop PC, a 13″ MacBook Pro running Mountain Lion, a jailbroken iPhone 4 and a decked out installation of Chrome synced between my computers. I spend a lot of time in my browser and I’m a huge fan of text expansion and shortcuts.

These are the apps that I couldn’t write without.

My Favorite Apps


We use WordPress here at AppStorm and I post straight from the web editor. I used to use Windows Live Writer, but since getting my new PC I have been sticking to my browser.

I spend a lot of time in Chrome, especially when reviewing web apps for Windows.AppStorm. I read and subscribe to a lot of websites, and use Pocket to make sure I read certain articles. Then I use IFTTT to send archived Pocket articles to Pinboard for later reference.

I tend to have a ton of tabs open at any given time and The Great Suspender is an invaluable extension. It allows me to free up my resources without having to close tabs by suspending them, which comes in handy for me every single day. Adam Dachis over at Lifehacker saved my hyperbolic life with this extension.


I do most of my writing in plain ol’ Notepad. It’s not the prettiest app (although I really like the facelift in Windows 8), but it is really easy to write in. It’s simple, distration-free and quick to launch. After I’m satisfied with my work, I’ll paste it into my web editor for review. It is especially handy because I keep my Notepad window really small so I can write while also looking at an app window behind.

Notepad is especially handy when reviewing apps for AppStorm

Notepad is especially handy when reviewing apps for AppStorm

Breevy and Text Expander

While many of us are familiar with Text Expander, not everyone has hard of Breevy. I first tried this app touted as “Text Expander for Windows” when writing my review and I quickly fell in love. It’s an incredibly fast, fancy text expansion app that is invaluable for writers. I make shortcuts for everything and use them all the time. I have my Breevy and Text Expander abbreviations synced via Dropbox.

Breevy makes it easy to be lazy with the shift key

Breevy makes it easy to be lazy with the shift key

I also use Breevy and Text Expander to be an auto-correct magician that actually works. You can download a list of common typos and use both apps to auto-replace them with the correct spelling. I also use them for capitalization of “I” so it always seems like I’m writing correctly even when I’m being lazy with the shift bar.

Launchy and Alfred

Alongside my love for text expansion and keyboard shortcuts is my love for application launchers and universal search. While I’m on my MacBook I use Alfred, and when I’m on my PC I use Launchy. I have both apps set up to handle my normal shortcuts for web searches, app launching, websites and even document folders.

Launchy gets me where I'm going faster

Launchy gets me where I’m going faster

Print Screen + Photoshop

I feel kind of deflated now, having just realized while writing this article that I don’t use a screen grabbing app. I use the boring method of the Print Screen button and paste it directly into Photoshop. While this isn’t the most interesting way to take screenshots of apps, I’ve got it down to a science.

I think I’m going to take a look at some of the screen grabbing apps and see if I can settle on one.

Other Apps in My Workflow

Even though this article is mostly about how I write, I wanted to share some of the other apps that help me get things done on the regular.

I use ClipCube for clipboard history and it’s saved me more than once. Plex Media Server helps me manage my massive media collection. Instant Bird keeps me in touch with friends and colleagues. I use a combination of Dropbox, SkyDrive, Google Drive and Crash Plan to make sure my data is safe in the event of a terrible disaster of electronic proportions. I use both 1Password and LastPass to keep track of website logins and fill web forms.

I use Remember the Milk to remember the coffee and OJ because those are my favorites and I use a combination of Vue MinderBasecamp, Asana and Gmail Tasks for making sure I get things done in life. FileZilla and Notepad++ are my go to apps for coding on Windows, and I live in Coda on OS X. Curdbee is what gets me paid, and I track my expenses in You Need a Budget 4. I use Postbox and Thunderbird for managing my many email accounts, but I also use the Gmail web interface regularly. I rely on Feedly to stay updated on what’s what on the internet and I’m a daily reader of all AppStorm blogs.

Final Thoughts

I’ve mentioned before in my articles that I’m a big app junkie and this has proven me right. I use a lot of different apps for a lot of different reasons, and each one fits into my workflow like the perfect puzzle piece. I am always on the lookout for the next great app and that’s one reason I love an article series like this.

I hope that I’ve introduced you to a new app or at least got you thinking about giving an old one another go. What are some apps that you can’t work without?